17 February 2008

Lewis on "membership" -- Wisdom Sunday

The…word membership is of Christian origin, but it has been taken over by the world and emptied of all meaning. In any book on logic you may see the expression “members of a class.” It must be most emphatically stated that the items or particulars included in a homogeneous class are almost the reverse of what St. Paul meant by members he meant what we should call organs, things essentially different from, and complementary to, one another, things differing not only in structure and function but also in dignity. Thus, in a club, the committee as a whole and the servants as a whole may both properly be regarded as “members”; what we should call the members of the club are merely units. A row of identically dressed and identically trained solders set side by side, or a number of citizens listed as voters in a constituency are not member of anything in the Pauline sense. I am afraid that when we describe a man as “a member of the Church” we usually mean nothing Pauline; we mean only that he is a unit – that he is one more specimen of some kind of things as X and Y and Z. How true membership in a body differs from inclusion in a collective may be seen in the structure of a family. The grandfather, the parents, the grown-up son, the child, the dog, and the cat are true members (in the organic sense), precisely because they are not members of units of a homogeneous class. They are not interchangeable…. If you subtract any one member, you have not simply reduced the family in number; you have inflicted an injury on its structure. Its unity is a unity of unlikes, almost of incommensurables. – C. S. Lewis, “Membership” in “The Weight of Glory” and other addresses, (originally, a paper read to The Society of St. Alban and St. Serguis, Oxford, 10 February 1945 and published in Sobornost, no. 31 [June 1945]).
Makes one wonder: Is my church a body, or a collections of units?

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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